Today we are going to talk about Yule which falls next Wednesday here in the Northern hemisphere, and which is always so much fun. We are also gonna have the new moon next Friday, so if you’re thinking about setting intentions for that, maybe start getting your ducks in a row. And we will also move into Capricorn season next Thursday, the 22nd. And if all of that wasn’t enough, Mercury will move into retrograde on Thursday as well, and it will carry us into the New Year.
So there’s a lot going on in the skies this next week, the energy is going to be very tumultuous, very chaotic, and that doesn’t even take into account the holiday parties, and last-minute shopping, visiting with family, and so forth. So all I’m saying is make sure you take some time for yourself. Carve it out, write it into your schedule and don’t double book yourself. Treat this time like a doctor’s appointment and prioritize your peace. It doesn’t have to be a whole day, or a half a day. Just set aside a couple hours sometime in this next couple of weeks and just read a book, or watch a movie or take a nap, or whatever you like to do when you have extra time that isn’t spoken for. Relaxation is medicinal. We do not have to go, go, go. We can’t, and we shouldn’t even try.
I have a DM that I got from a witch on Instagram and I wanted to read it before we get to the topic of the day.
Hello! My daughter told me I should start listening to your podcast and I’m so glad I did! I just started listening a few days ago and I had a question for you! I listened to the episode magical misconceptions this morning and you were talking about the different kinds of witches. And you mentioned Chrstian witches. I have been fascinated with magic and witches since Jr high, I’m 42 now. But I’ve never done anything about it because I assumed that believing in God and being a witch or things like that could never go together! I was wondering if you could give me some assistance into what a Christian witch might be? Is it different from what you talk about? Or the same? Thank you so much!
So this is something we have talked about a little bit before, but it has been a while. I had to sympathize with this witch, because this is exactly where so many of us begin that journey. And as I told her, I understand the disconnect between what the scriptures have to say about witchcraft versus what our souls tell us. But we have to remember that the scriptures were compiled and edited by men with their own agendas, and there’s frankly an awful lot in there that we simply don’t take as literal or even remotely true anymore.
The scriptures have a lot of rules for how women are meant to be treated, how slaves are meant to submit to their masters, and a lot of Gods chosen weren’t especially good men. Not in the slightest. So when the scriptures speak against witchcraft, I have to wonder why that would be. Is it because it’s so wrong? Or is it because the craft provides people with a way to commune with the divine without the intercession of priests and holy men?
There are a lot of examples in scripture of using crystals. The breastplate of Aaron was a literal crystal grid. The wise men brought the Christ child precious metals and incense and they used the stars to foretell his birth. The difference between what we call witchcraft and what the prophets were doing is nothing.
So to be a Christian witch is not too different to what I talk about here on the podcast. You wouldn’t probably invoke other deities in your work, but the information is still the same. And this witch did ask for some idea of where to begin to try and reconcile our practices with what we are taught that it means to be a good Christian. I’ve recommended this book before, and it’s called The Path of a Christian Witch by Adelina St Clair. It’s written from a bit of a Wiccan perspective, but the foundations are solid and I think it’s a really good jumping off point for Christian witches.
Now this week, our entire topic comes to us from a message that I received from Britta in Germany:
Dear Eli, I am writing to you from Germany. So first of all, please excuse me if my English is not so good. I’m not a witch but maybe a magical person and did some work when I was young. (I think we all are magical people somehow). I like to listen to your podcast. I think it’s really interesting and inspiring but also I like your voice and I quite understand everything. So thank you for that.
So the question is: I was wondering if you celebrate what we call Rough Night, Between the Years, or Twelve Nights? I tried to look it up on Wikipedia, and was very surprised… so I don’t know what would be the right translation. There is said it’s called “Twelfth Night” in English. But it’s said also that it’s a Christian’s holiday?!? That I think it is really strange, also nowadays, a lot of people start with the 24th of December, which is obviously Christmas.
The old way, and the way my family and a lot of other families use the 12 magical nights is starting with the 21st of December. Originally, it’s because of the moon calendar and the sun calendar. There is a space of 11 days and 12 nights. Here we believe that this time is a kind of balance between moon and sun. So this may be where the name “between the years” came from. It’s a quiet time when even nature stops. We look more to the inside than the outside.
There are so many rituals and traditions around these nights. It’s said it’s really good for predictions and wishes. We do things like not washing the clothes over this time. Washing is not the problem, but hanging the clothes up might invite unwanted ghosts from the wild hunt, who might hide in there. We make 13 wishes (in which we write down 13 wishes on the first night, and we will burn every night one wish to hand over to the universe. The last one, the 13th wish, we must fulfill ourselves.) We meditate, we burn a lot of incense, and cleanse the house with incense.
Every night has its own theme. It said that each of the twelve nights represents one month of the next year if using it for prediction. Some people believe that animals can talk but it’s not good to listen to them. And a lot more. Are there traditions or rituals in the US for those nights? All the best, Britta
First of all, Britta, your English is beautiful. But to answer your question, we don’t celebrate the Twelve Nights but by god, I wish we did. I also want to acknowledge that before I read this message on the podcast, I translated all the German names for the holidays to English because although I did try to use pronunciation guides, I just don’t have what it takes to speak German. My mouth will not make the right sounds.
So please forgive me, but I couldn’t allow myself to wreak that level of destruction to your mother tongue. Anyway, I’ve done as much digging as Google would allow and tried to find out as much as I can about these practices because they’re fascinating and we do owe so much of our Yule celebrations to the Germanic pagans and now, dear listeners, this is what I’ve learned.
So the concept of the Twelve Nights that Britta was referring to is a result of the change from the lunar calendar, which counts 12 cycles of the moon as the full year, and means therefore that the year should be 354 days. But we use the Gregorian calendar now, which is 365 days. Meaning that there are 12 nights and 11 days that are unaccounted for, and treated like a separate entity. They are outside of time.
Britta was also correct that in modern times, we mark the twelve days beginning at Christmas and ending on January 6th, which is Epiphany. However, these twelve days should be counted from the solstice, which means that the celebration ends at the New Year. I also did a bunch of digging about the traditions that Britta mentioned and let me tell yall. It’s legit.
When Britta speaks of it being a quiet period in nature, and a time for spending indoors, close to the hearth. This could be because of the bitter winter weather, but it could also be a way to avoid the Perchten, huge, ugly, Krampus-like figures who go door-to-door and make sure that homes are tidy and chores are done. Maybe your village would hold a Perchtenlauf, and young men and women in costume would run amok in the streets, causing mayhem, banging pots and pans and lighting fireworks and making a hell of a racket to frighten away any evil spirits.
This is also the reason for smoke cleansing the house and burning incense during this time. We must keep our houses clean literally and spiritually. Whatever we can do in the darkest time of year to discourage little spooks and specters from hanging around our homes and causing us grief.
Speaking of those spirits, and coming back around to the practice of not washing any laundry, and for the love of god, not hanging any washing out to dry, this has to do with the Wild Hunt. Now, you’ll have to bear with me if you’ve heard a different version of this, but accounts vary from region to region and country to country, so I’m distilling the bare bones of the tale are as follows:
The leader of the hunt is Odin and though his hunt is rarely seen, it is heard. A typical explanation is that you would hear two of Odin’s dogs; one is barking louder and the second one fainter. This barking would be the only sounds that were clearly identified. One reason that the hunt itself is unseen is that it’s frankly bad luck to look when you hear the hunt coming. Best keep your eyes averted, lest you be swept up in the fray. When Odin’s hunt was heard, it may have meant changing weather in many regions, but it could also mean war and unrest.
In western Sweden and sometimes in the east as well, it has been said that Odin wasn’t necessarily the one leading the hunt, but that it was a nobleman or possibly a king who had committed the sin of hunting on Sundays and therefore was doomed to hunt down and kill supernatural beings until the end of time. Regardless of his true origins, the fact is that it’s still common practice to avoid washing one’s clothes during the twelve days, lest the wild hunt get tangled up in your clothesline and a few of those unruly spirits left behind to cause you trouble.
In particular, I read that young ladies are advised not to hang out their unmentionables for fear that an evil spirit might take an interest in not only the undies but the lady who wears them, and snatch her along to the underworld with them.
And one final note that I found about the wild hunt was the tradition of leaving a plate of leftovers from Yule dinner out on the porch for spirits as they pass by to ensure a good harvest the next year. Much like leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, although I must say it seems like the spirits give you a much better return on investment.
It seems as though the twelve nights are an excellent time for divination as well, especially the weather, and I found information about making an onion calendar during the twelve nights. Apparently, an onion is cut into 12 pieces, and the twelve pieces of onion are each assigned a month which they represent. Salt is sprinkled on the onion and left overnight. In the morning, the amount of moisture on each onion piece indicates how rainy or dry that onion piece’s month will be.
I found an article that expanded on the idea of animals speaking and why it is considered a bad thing, and as I understand it, on Christmas Eve, at midnight, animals are able to speak. But if you hear them talking, then you’ll die. So while I would really love to hear what Johnny has to say, I guess I’m glad I’m always dead asleep by midnight. However, the animals can speak to the house fairies, and they’ll tell the fairies if they’ve been mistreated. So, just watch your ass. We do not want to be on the outs with our house fairies. That’s a terrible way to start the new year.
As for the 13 wishes, this was the part of Britta’s message that I really felt like we, collectively, could connect with. From the reading I’ve done, and again, please remember that almost all of the sources I found were in German, and I had to run them through the translator which is an imperfect science. So none of what I’ve said thus far should be taken as absolute gospel, this is simply what I’ve been able to discern.
Anyway, so the ritual is performed thusly: write 13 wishes on pieces of paper. Specific wishes, that are to do with you personally. We are not wishing for peace on earth here. Write them on these scraps of paper and fold them up tight, so that you can’t see which wish is on which paper. Put them in a little box or a dish.
Burn one wish on each of the twelve sacred nights. Each wish is meant to come true, but only one wish per month. The wish you burn on the first night will come true in January, and so forth. This is why you have to make sure you don’t know which you’re burning on each night. You won’t know that until it comes to pass.
Now, about that 13th wish. On the last night, you’ll have one wish left in your box. Go ahead and open it up and read it, because making sure that wish comes true will be up to you. You can buy 13 wish ritual kits on Etsy and they’re beautiful, but this is also a really simple but really meaningful ritual that anyone can do without spending any money. It’s something to look forward to each night. This is a practice that any family can fold into their holiday traditions.
So thank you so much, Britta, for sharing your traditions with us. It was so generous of you. And blessed Yule to all of you, Merry Christmas, and if you’d like to write to me, I would love to hear from you. Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will talk again next Thursday. My name is Eli Ro, and this has been the Middle Aged Witch Podcast.